Zali Steggall MP speaks on climate change

20 March 2023



I thank the member for Werriwa for this motion and acknowledge that the government is at least doing something to address the challenge of climate change. But let's get real. It's not enough. At midnight tonight the UN IPCC will release the synthesis report unveiling key findings of climate change from the last seven-year cycle. It won't be pretty.

The situation is dire, particularly in Australia. Catastrophes between July 2021 and July 2022 have cost the insurance industry some $5.28 billion on the east coast, predominantly from the floods, to give just one small example. By 2050 it is expected to be in the vicinity of $39 billion per year. In Australia the extinction rate of native species is the worst in the world, and yet we continue to increase native forest logging and there is not been a commitment by either Labor or the coalition to end immediately native forest logging.

We need to set greater ambitions. The government set a political target for the 2022 election to be less bad on climate than the coalition. That does not make it a good actor on climate change. We urgently need to set a 2035 target that is meaningful to give business and industry the investment road map to plan ahead. Australian state governments are broadly committed to at least 70 to 80 per cent by 2035. The UK is committed to 78 per cent by 2035. Germany is committed to 88 per cent emissions reduction by 2040. We need to set a trajectory for greater action. When the Albanese government passed its Climate Change Act late last year, setting as a floor its political ambition of 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, it acknowledged that this was a floor and not a ceiling. Let's get real about where the next target needs to be if we are going to be meaningful. It must be 75 per cent by 2035 as a minimum the government must aim for to comply with the goal of the Paris Agreement and limiting warming to close to 1.5 degrees. The rest of the world is acting. We need to step up to our responsibility.

The US Inflation Reduction Act is a US$400 billion to US$800 billion government fund that is pulling huge amounts of capital skills and knowledge to the US. If we don't respond, it will have a huge impact on Australia's ability to realise its potential as a renewable energy superpower. We can't just say the words; we actually have to match it with policy for it to happen. This motion highlights the opportunity of green hydrogen, and I agree. Deloitte analysis shows that the US IRA threatens the development of that industry in Australia. It will delay the commencement of scaled production to 2035, and that will reduce our potential exports by 65 per cent annually by 2050.

The EU has recognised this risk and just last week announced its response: the Net Zero Industry Act, alongside its Critical Raw Materials Act, representing a direct climate and investment strategy to respond to the US IRA. These policies aim to onshore manufacturing of at least 40 per cent of clean technologies by 2030. The Gulf states are also responding and getting ahead of Australia. We need a concerted government response to crowd in the $3.3 trillion in private super wealth and seize this nation-building opportunity. Capital and production follow certainty, ambition and strategic government investment. Last week German company Volkswagen threatened to prioritise, over other jurisdictions, a US based $16 billion battery plant in response to the IRA. Fortescue Metals and Woodside Energy have highlighted that they will pursue green hydrogen investments in the US ahead of Australia on the basis of those subsidies available. There is no matching policy from the government.

We have to talk about methane. This motion highlights that the government has signed on to the 30 by 30 pledge to reduce methane emissions, yet, to date, there has been nothing from the government to actually do something about methane emissions. The safeguard mechanism is before parliament, and it is an opportunity to introduce world-leading practice to Australia's largest emitters of methane outside of the agricultural sector. Methane is 26 times more potent at capturing warming that CO2. It must be addressed. I've put forward amendments, and we've had constructive discussions, but the government needs to come to the table with a real commitment when it comes to those emissions. I welcome this motion, but we have a lot more to do.